As the 2019 general elections draw nearer, presidential candidates of various political parties must present blueprints on solving the big challenge of Apapa gridlock.
About 5,000 trucks seek access to Apapa and Tin Can ports in Lagos every day, according to a latest maritime report released on Tuesday by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
These trucks have continued to plunder Apapa and Tin Can despite that access roads and the two ports were originally meant to accommodate only 1,500 trucks.
According to the LCCI report, Nigeria loses N600 billion in customs revenue, $10 billion (N3.6trn) in non-oil export sector and N2.5 trillion in corporate earnings across various sectors on annual basis due to the poor state of Nigerian ports.
The report notes that 25 percent of cashew nuts exported from Lagos to Vietnam in 2017 went bad or were downgraded owing to delays at Lagos ports. Similarly, only 10 percent of cargoes are cleared within the set timeline of 48 hours now while the majority of cargoes take between five and 14 days to clear. Again, cargoes take as many as 20 days to be cleared at the ports.
Nigeria realises N4 billion to N7 billion from both Apapa and Tin Can ports every day. Yet, government after government does not have an answer for the logjam.
More so, the number of government agencies at the ports is now 12 rather than eight, with each demanding inspection and associated fees.
“There is a need to extend reform action plans of Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) to Eastern ports, air and land ports,” Babatunde Paul Ruwase, president of the LCCI, said at a press conference in Lagos.
“The concessioning of Onitsha seaport should be finalised, while government should improve the security situation along and within the Warri port in order to ward off militants and touts. Stakeholders request that government should approve and publicise a bouquet of incentives to importers and exports that patronise ports outside Lagos,” Ruwase said.
The state of Apapa and Tin Can access roads has led to economic losses and slowdown in human and vehicular movements in Lagos.
An exporter shipping out 1,700 tons of commodities per day under normal circumstances when Apapa road was in good condition now manages to only ship between 100 and 250 tons, Tola Faseru, president of the National Cashew Association of Nigeria, told BusinessDay last year.
Manufacturing companies are bleeding because imported raw materials take many days to get to factories. Nigeria needs dollars to survive but exporters are facing challenges at ports, with non-oil exports falling below $1.6 billion today, from $3 billion in 2013, going by data from the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC). The National Action Plan 2.0 (NAP 2.0), PEBEC, in 2017, unveiled clear-cut plans to reform the ports, with government proposing joint examination of import cargo in Lagos led by the Nigeria Customs Service, as well as compliance with 48-hour SLA for automated scheduling process by pre-shipment inspection agents. But this is not happening.
Ruwase recommended enforcement of Executive Order on Single Examination, digitalising export process, reduction of enforcement agencies from 12 to eight, use of National Data Centre and passage of Enabling Port Reforms Bills by the National Assembly.
“Our desire is for Nigeria to get to the point where it can move containers and other items to and from ports by rail across the country,” he said.
“Let those in Apapa give presidential candidates that condition: No solution, no vote. You can lock down Apapa just because you do not know what to do with the ports in Onne, Warri and other parts of the country,” a businessman, who preferred anonymity, said.